In the excellent restaurant and bar scene of Washington, D.C., Adam Bernbach is an important figure. The award-winning bar director for 2 Birds 1 Stone, doi moi, Estadio, and Proof loves to create cocktails both simple and clean, and big and bright. Here, he provides recipes for each along with his bartending inspiration. Make his punch for the holiday weekend and be the toast of the barbecue.
When did you know you wanted to work behind the bar?
When I was a teenager, my parents were bar regulars at a restaurant a few blocks away from our house, and on Friday nights, I would meet them there for dinner before hanging out with my friends. I would sit there with my parents (non-drinkers, by the way!), completely mesmerized by the bartenders, Cindy and Tony. Everything they did was seamless. They were constantly, ceaselessly moving—all while actively participating in their guests' lives. Like all of the other guests, that weekly interaction was so important to my parents. Cindy and Tony made bartending seem to be the most amazing and human job.
What inspires the cocktails you create at 2 Birds 1 Stone?
I like simple, clean drinks. A unique style is important, of course—that's identity. But the results have to be something that's balanced, with focused flavors, and, ultimately, enjoyable. Lucy Dunning, the 2 Birds bar manager, and I sit down every Tuesday to sort what worked from the week, what didn't work as well, and what we feel is time to cycle off. We talk through what we've been into lately and what ingredients are in season. We always have, in our minds, over-arching types that act as spots on our list and we try to hit these spots in ways that true to our style. The list is always a balance of classic favorites—or classically inspired drinks—and more cartoon-y drinks, things that are a little out-there in terms of flavors and ingredients.
Which cocktail is your favorite that you've developed in your career, and why?
That's tough! I've been pretty lucky to have a few drinks take off beyond my lists: "Darkside" (gin, barolo chinato and Peychaud bitters) chief among them. While I take a lot of pride in that, The drink I most enjoy most often is "El Cazador." It's a light, refreshing aperitif cocktail that I created for Estadio, our Spanish restaurant. "El Cazador" means "the hunter" and it references the Carson Mccullers novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, a book the drink has absolutely nothing to do with. Somehow that title immediately came into my head when I finished making the drink.
- 1 1/2 ounces Oloroso Sherry
- 3/4 ounce Campari
- ½ ounce honey syrup
- ½ ounce lime juice
Shake. Strain into a Coupe. Orange Zest Garnish.
What's your favorite classic cocktail, and why?
The Adonis is the classic that I find myself drinking the most. It's so simple and enjoyable. Dry, nutty, with a warm bitter orange quality that is invariably exactly what I wanted. That said, I love making Piña Coladas! Coconut and pineapple are top of my list of all-time favorite flavors. A Piña Colada is 100% pure fun!
What's a super-easy recipe that someone can re-create at home?
2 Can Punch (From 2 Birds 1 Stone)
- 12 ounces pickle brine (1 can)
- 12 ounces lager (Tecate/Pacifico/Chang)
- 16 ounces strawberries, quartered
- 2 ounces lime juice
- 2 ounces sugar
- 1/2 ounce Angostura Bitters
Add all but the lager and bitters in a blender. Purée until completely even in texture. Pour into pitcher. Add beer and bitters. Stir. Add Ice. Stir. Garnish with strawberry and mint.